Institutional learning in the age of change

July 17th, 2016, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: PositionIT


Citing Future Shock author Alvin Toffler, who said “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”, Elmi Bester from ThinkingKnowlegde spoke about the importance of institutional learning to Geo-Information Society of South Africa’s (GISSA) Gauteng branch members.

GISSA Gauteng’s second quarter meeting took place at Eskom’s Academy of Learning in Midrand on 15 July 2016. The meeting also focussed on the importance of STEM learning as framework of thinking, and showcased three spatial projects.

Despite its importance being recognised and understood, institutional learning is still an emerging habit, says Bester, adding that obstacles include a fear of failure, a lack of a growth mind-set, attribution bias and the blame game, as well as an over reliance on past performance. Even success should be questioned she says, as successes also offer learning opportunities which are often missed in the midst of achievement and over confidence which fail to ask why indeed a project has been successful.

Presenters at the GISSA Gauteng branch meeting.

Presenters at the GISSA Gauteng branch meeting.

Creating a learning environment, she explains, entails making learning a ritual (before, during and after projects), establishing concrete learning processes and practices, and creating a non-judgemental space with a spirit of experimentation. In short, learning should be deliberate, and learning meetings should be different to progress meetings, she says.

Bester also cautioned organisations who already have learning objectives and fault-analyses built into their KPIs or processes not to over complicate learning. Learning is after all only effective when it results in change and improvements.

There are different methods of learning that can yield different insights, but at the heart of them all is a deep questioning process. One example she gave as a starting point is the 5-Why-Method, where one asks “why” five consecutive times to get to the root cause of a problem – instead of interrupting the search for a root cause by assigning blame or attributing a cause too quickly.

Edzia Conilias Zvobwa from MathGenius also spoke of the value a question-based leaning model offers, when he spoke of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects as a framework for thinking. Enquiry-based education models require students not only to solve a problem, but identify it first. Such a model further requires an understanding and analyses of a problem, something often neglected in the current South African school curriculum. He also described geographic information systems (GIS) as an integrating technology that is an ideal application of all these subjects, and a good way to teach these to students.

As part of a GISSA national initiative towards establishing a professional model for GIS practitioners, GISSA Gauteng chairman Sam Osei asked members to propose and comment on a remuneration model for the industry based on practitioners’ different levels of qualification. This model has not been finalised yet.

Paul Strydom from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform also delivered an overview of a new project the department is working on as part of supporting the South African Spatial Data Infrastructure, namely the National Spatial Planning Data Repository (NSPDR). This project seeks to collaborate with various spatial data stakeholders to develop a data ecosystem and data market place which allows for secondary data and value added products to be created. The project is still in its infancy, and will be developed over the next three years.

Other projects on the day looked at asset management and the implementation of an enterprise GIS, and the day concluded with a presentation by GeoTerraImage’s Stuart Martin about the value of satellite imagery in planning for growth.

A photo gallery of the event can be viewed here.

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